Maputo — The Mozambican government hopes to persuade cotton farmers to plant soya as well, in order to improve peasant income, reports Tuesday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".
Cited by the paper, Agriculture Minister Celso Correia said that currently Mozambican soya production does not exceed 59,000 tonnes a year, even though there is plenty of fertile land available on which this crop could be grown.
Correia added that Mozambique spends annually about 118 million US dollars on imports of vegetable oil, and these imports could be replaced by large scale domestic production of soya.
Cotton offers average annual income to farmers of about 15,000 meticais (about 217 US dollars) per household involved in planting cotton. If soya is planted alongside cotton, that income could be tripled, claimed Correia.
There is already an organizational structure for cotton production and marketing, and Correia believed the same structure could be used to encourage soya production.
"There needs to be a serious commitment between the peasants and the purchasing companies", he said. "If this activity is done properly, then we can rapidly take out of poverty about a million people, whose income is currently based on cotton".
The deal Correia had in mind would commit the peasants to selling their soya to the companies, and would prevent the appearance of other buyers who would acquire the soya at low prices and resell it illegally in neighbouring countries.
Recent studies show that small scale soya farmers, working less than five hectares of land, have limited access to improved inputs, to agricultural machinery, to technical expertise and to markets. Such problems could be overcome if the purchasing companies can be persuaded to provide the peasant farmers with inputs.
Private companies are averse to setting up new distribution networks and new credit schemes, but Correia was optimistic that the existing structure established for cotton would prove a viable solution for mass production of soya.